Science Codex reports that scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are leading the way in learning more about biochar, the charred biomass created from wood, other plant material, and manure. Their research has shown that differetn biochars produced from a range of feedstocks have varying characteristics, including in relation to moisture and nutrient retention.
For example, biochars produced from switchgrass and hardwoods produced via high-temperature pyrolysis increased soil moisture storage, but only by 3 to 6 percent above the control soil sample. Biochars produced at higher temperatures also increased soil pH levels, and biochar made from poultry litter greatly increased soil levels of available phosphorus and sodium. Given their results, the team believes that agricultural producers could someday select feedstocks and pyrolysis processes to make "designer" biochars with characteristics that target specific deficiencies in soil types.
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